The Po river defines the north border of the urbanized territory of Piacenza for a linear development of 27 Km. The riverbed, the floodplain areas and the banks cover an extension of 40 km² equal to 35 % of the municipal territory. The Po is the most important Italian river, a multiform heritage of unparalleled wealth. It winds for 650 kilometers, crosses four regions (Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Veneto), has a catchment area that extends for more than 70,000 square kilometers that includes about a quarter of the entire national territory. The Po Valley is one of the European areas with the highest concentration of population and activity, where about 20 million people live and which generates half of the Italian GDP; its heart is the Po, which along its course contains a scenario full of unique and unknown riches.
On the Po there is an extensive scientific and literary production and there is a large database of data and proposals and a vast ecological, iconographic and geographical historical documentation. Along the Po there are eight regional parks and fifty protected areas of various nature. The entire river auction is also managed by two dedicated institutions: the Po River District Basin Authority and the Interregional Agency for the Po River (AIPo), which have competence mainly in hydraulic and environmental matters.
The river, however, lives a fragmented and uneven reality that sees alongside environmentally managed and culturally promoted stretches others where the river is just a large void in which its own and improper activities take place, outside of an effective overview.
The state of health of the Po presents critical aspects, destined to become more acute as a result of climate change, which require an awareness that cannot be left to the sum of fragmentary interventions. There is no complete perception of its ecosystems and landscapes, a shared recognition of belonging to river communities, a widespread knowledge of the natural and cultural resources that characterize it and those that are directly and indirectly supported by the river.
Water represents the very nature of the Po, as a resource and wealth in itself is the result of the combination of natural water flows in the underlying river basin with human activities that take place there.
Water is the backbone of the socio-ecological system and the eco-territorial network that make up the Po. The values and richness that it implies: the natural capital represented by biodiversity and the services that the ecosystem provides to the territory, the economic capital linked to multiple activities (irrigation, tourism, fishing, inland navigation), the social and cultural capital linked to the history of the territory and its works, local identities, the proflusion of writings and works of art that have been the object of the water of the Po.
At the same time, the water we are considering has deep weaknesses, recalled by the Management Plan of the Basin Authority of 2015:
– eutrophication of surface water due to the high concentrations of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) of civil and agro-zootechnical origin;
– pollution of surface and groundwater, in particular with respect to the presence of priority and new generation chemicals;
– water scarcity and droughts, linked to excessive use of existing freshwater resources and in relation to global phenomena such as climate change and population growth;
– hydromorphological alterations and the functionality of watercourses, depending on the needs of water use and/or urbanization of riverside areas;
– loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services of water bodies.